Late Night London offers quick and easy booking services at 27 London Nightspots. As Anna Longmore discovers, this has proved an appealing prospect for organisers.
We’ve all been there: the long-awaited get-together that makes you wish you’d stayed at home. Whether you queue for hours outside a club, squeeze into an awkward corner, wait ages for drinks or just end up in the wrong choice of bar, planning a successful night out in London makes military strategy look easy. But Novus Leisure believes it has the solution in the form of Late Night London, a central booking office that organises reservations across the company’s 27 bars, clubs and restaurants in the City and West End.
The brand was first conceived by Urbium (the company behind Tiger Tiger) in 2001, when it offered bookings at eight London-based bars. Five years later, that number has more than trebled and Urbium has become Novus Leisure. Late Night London, which retains its name, is now a stronger brand than ever and continues to enjoy unanimously positive customer feedback despite promising refunds for anyone who is unsatisfied with the service – not bad, considering its website now has some 200,000 registered users.
Commercial director James Spragg attributes the success of Late Night London to the control it gives customers over their night out. Table bookings, area reservations and guest lists can all be arranged via the website, or over the phone, either weeks in advance or on the day of the event (subject to availability). ‘People spend a lot of money on a night out,’ he says, ‘and they want to ensure that their evening is as hassle-free as possible. We take all the niggles and fears away from the organiser: will I get into the club? Will my table be free? Will I be able to sit with my friends? Will there be enough space?’
Flexibility, too, is part of the draw. There are 27 bars in the Novus stable, ranging from the sleek and modish Bloomsbury’s Wax Bar to the unashamedly riotous Strawberry Moons, and Late Night London pledges to find a night to suit every requirement. Three experienced event planners are on hand to talk customers through the selection process and, as Spragg explains, mismatches are rare.
‘Our co-ordinators have a close relationship with the bars and spend a lot of time going round them, so they instinctively know which will be right for each client,’ he says. The broad appeal of the portfolio is a core value for Late Night London. Most of the group’s bars feature an attractive combination of blond wood, chrome fittings and leather sofas, which helps attract a handsome crowd. Apart from a late licence and dance floor, the common characteristic also shared by all 27 venues is that they are what Spragg calls premium bars.
‘It’s not about cheap drinks and lots of discounting. It’s about providing good service, the right type of music and really targeting young professionals,’ he says. For example, the volume is kept low between 5pm and 10pm so that customers can enjoy drinking and talking before hitting the dance floor. Spragg is quick to refute the suggestion that the service is biased towards big groups. ‘We take all sorts of bookings, from putting four friends on a guest list to booking 5,000 people for a corporate event.’
All things to all people, then? Not exactly. If Late Night London has specialised in any area, it is women, who make up 70 per cent of its customer base. But Spragg admits this is no accident. ‘If we can provide a nice, comfortable, non-threatening environment where women want to go, the blokes will follow anyway,’ he laughs. Not surprisingly, Novus says corporate hospitality accounts for a ‘huge part’ of its revenue – almost £10m worth of business this year across London. And much of it is driven through the Late Night London brand.
Spragg says events can vary from drinks receptions and fashion shows to conferences and exhibitions, and the range of companies using the service is expansive – from big corporates such as Direct Line to small local firms looking for a Christmas party venue. When a booking is for a group of more than 20, it is passed on to a Late Night London sales manager at the chosen venue, who will handle the event from start to finish.
Now that the transformation of Urbium into Novus Leisure has been completed, the group has shifted into acquisition mode.Three new bars, The Wall, the Worship and The Livery, have opened in the City, while The Longacre and Verve, both in Covent Garden, have added to the West End selection. Spragg also says the feelers are out for similar sites, to help Novus accommodate an expected increase in business. ‘Late Night London is expected to double its business over the next year. We seem to be growing the database by word of mouth and good service, which is always the best way. The service speaks for itself in that it’s free and reliable,’ he says.
Keen to try it out for yourself? You’ll find reviews of all the Late Night London bars and restaurants on squaremeal.co.uk. Just take your pick from the Branch Locator below and type the name into the ‘Quick Search’ box on our website, ensuring that the ‘in London Restaurants’ option is selected.
WEST END BRANCHES: Babble (W1), Boardwalk (W1), Digress (W1), The Langley (WC2), The Longacre (WC2), The Loop (W1), Motion (WC2), On Anon (W1), Oxygen (WC2), Ruby Blue (WC2), The Soho (W1), Strawberry Moons (W1), Sugar Reef (W1), Sway (WC2), Tiger Tiger (SW1), Verve (WC2), The Warwick (W1), Wax Bar (W1), Zoo Bar (W1)
CITY OF LONDON BRANCHES: Abacus (EC3), Agenda (EC3), Alibi (EC4), Apt (EC4), Digress City (EC2), The Livery (EC2), The Wall (EC2), The Worship (EC2)
All can be booked through Late Night London on tel: 0870 7777 080, squaremeal.co.uk/lnl
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